Welcome to the last post for 2011 in my weekly blog series Passionate About Paris, which is now taking a break over Christmas and the New Year. Wishing Joyeux Noel et Bonne Année to everyone – and see you in 2012! But first, read on for things to do and see as well as some all-important info.
With Christmas almost upon us and the New Year not far behind, those of you lucky enough to be in the City of Light for either (or both!) of these celebrations can look forward to a terrific time. Even if you’re an armchair traveller, Paris conjures up some magical images…
A great piece of news for New Year’s Eve is that the Paris métro stays open all night on December 31st – so no worries about getting home. Do remember though, that it gets extremely crowded around 1-3 am, so try to avoid these times if you dread the crush.
There isn’t an official fireworks show, but there is an outstanding light show at the Eiffel Tower at midnight. On the stroke of 12, you can pop a champagne or white wine cork and kiss the person next to you – these are called ‘bisous’ – the French version of an air kiss.
Free things to do out of doors Make your way to the Champs de Mars or the Place de Trocadero to see the Eiffel Tower erupt into its fabuluous display of starbursts and lasers on the stroke of midnight. Arrive about 6-8pm to grab the best space.
The Champs Elysees is the busiest gathering-point for revellers and will be closed to traffic. Bracketed by the illuminated Arc du Triomphe and the ferris wheel at Place de la Concorde, the party goes on for hours after midnight. Don’t forget that bottle of Champagne and plastic glasses to share around!
If you’re looking for something a little quieter, head out to Montmartre, whose winding alleyways and cobbled squares are perfect for strolling. There are beautiful views from the top of butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city and site of Sacre Coeur Cathedral. It’s a great vantage point to watch the Eiffel Tower display.
Family stuff Here are some options for things to do in the evening with kids on NYE. The Ferris wheel at Place de la Concorde is open until midnight (€5), and the open ice rink outside Hotel de Ville stays open until 10pm (free: skate rental €5).
If you’re looking to stay warm indoors, treat the family to a show: L’Opera Bastille’s ballet of Cinderella is suitably magical, and this version is set in 1930s Hollywood (tickets €25-150).
The School of Paris florists present a quirky exhibition at Parc Floral in the Bois de Vincennes: character-shaped trees dressed as story heroes as well as cartoon and comic characters. The kids will love spotting Asterix, Shrek, The Pink Panther, Rapunzel, Marge Simpson, Gromit, Sponge Bob and many others. It’s lots of fun – and it’s free. The exhibition runs until January 8th; Parc Floral is in the 12th arrondissement, métro: Chateau de Vincennes.
Eating out Many Parisians celebrate New Year’s Eve at home with private dinner parties. Restaurants copy this tradition by offering their own NYE set menus, often at eye-wateringly expensive prices. It’s cheaper to eat early at a café, or to prepare your own (another advantage of self-catering!)
More Markets Another Christmas market to add to those mentioned in previous posts is Santa’s Village of St-Germain-des-Pres near the St-Germain-des-Pres church – a great place to start touring the Left Bank area down to the Seine. The literary cafes of Les Deux Magots and the Cafe de Flore are nearby and the market has beautifully decorated stalls selling arts, crafts and local produce.
Montparnasse market in the 15ht arrondissement is the place to go shopping for gourmet meal ingredients where you’ll find meats, cheeses, cakes and wines. Many of the stallholders offer free samples so try before you buy! Open until December 30th, nearest métro: Maine-Montparnasse.
If you looking for a memorable experience, how about a chauffeur-driven Mercedes to see the sights? Contact Lisa Buros-Hutchins at Your Paris Experience and she’ll make the booking for you. The tour lasts for four hours, take a bottle of bubbly if you want to and stop where you like. The price ranges from €204—€336 for a Mercedes depending on the car’s size and class.
Another outdoor event for all the family which attracts many visitors can be found at the Grands Palais, Avenue Winston Churchill (8th arrondissement). There’s lots of stalls, a ferris wheel, rides, candy floss and much more. Open daily from 1100-2330 until January 2nd, admission costs €10 for children and €15 for adults, with many free rides. Nearest métro stations are Clemenceau, Franklin D Roosevelt, Invalides and Concorde. http://www.grandpalais.fr/en/News/Current-programme-in-full/p-468-lg1-Current-programme-in-full.htm
In the 16th arrondissement the Christmas village ‘Trocadero on Ice’ offers an ice rink, an igloo and cottages serving traditional food along the two aisles of the Trocadero fountains. This magical place in front of the Eiffel Tower is at 11 place Trocadero. Nearest métro stations are Trocadero, Jena, Boissiere and Alma Marceau. Open daily until January 2nd from 1100 to 2100. http://www.trocadero-on-ice.fr/index.php
And finally….word reaches me that a croissant thief is at large in the western suburbs of Paris. Brandishing a fake revolver, he makes off with his haul. Police are baffled so far and happily no injuries have been reported. Shouldn’t there be a trail of crumbs? Is it time to resurrect Poirot – or even Clouseau?
Bonnes Vacances et À bientôt!